Second parking commissioner nominee withdraws

Byron Brown nominated a political insider and then his brother-in-law to the vacant post, but both turned down the job

Mayor Byron Brown is having a heck of a time replacing Kevin Helfer, who retired last month after nearly 12 years as the city’s parking commissioner and a top advisor to the mayor.

So far, the mayor has taken two swings at the ball and whiffed twice.

On February 25, the mayor nominated Christopher Savage, whose family is steeped in West Side politics. 

Chris Savage served as chief of staff for former state Senator Marc Panepinto and held posts with the Common Council and the Brown administration. He currently serves as a management analyst for the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority. 

Chris’s brother, Peter Savage III, was an assistant corporation counsel and a top political operative and advisor for Brown, before being elected in 2013 to the Erie County Legislature, where he was twice chosen as chair. In April 2019, Brown appointed him to a vacancy on Buffalo City Court; he was elected to a full 10-year term that fall.

Their father, also named Peter, was a former Common Council chief of staff and an aide to former Mayor Tony Masiello, who also held positions in the Brown administration.

Just before the March 2 special session at which the Common Council was expected to confirm him, Chris Savage withdrew his name from consideration.

Several City Hall sources told Investigative Post at the time that Savage preferred to keep his job at BMHA.

Strike one.

For his second swing, Brown turned to family: On April 14, he nominated his brother-in-law, Christopher Austin, whose resume — 23 years working in parking and transportation for the University at Buffalo, the last six years as director — was a perfect match.

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(Fun fact: In the letter nominating Austin, the mayor’s office forgot to replace Savage’s name with Austin’s in the final paragraph.)

On April 19, the Common Council was expected to consider Austin for the job. But Austin demurred at the last minute, and the mayor withdrew the nomination.

Strike two.

A City Hall source told Investigative Post UB was eager to keep Austin. And Austin told Investigative Post that, like Chris Savage, he decided to stay put.

“The Buffalo parking commissioner role would be attractive to any parking professional, and I am very appreciative for having been considered,” Austin wrote in an email. 

“After careful consideration, including my lengthy tenure at UB, and love of the campus, community, and team, I decided continuing in my role at the University was the best career choice/path.”

Michael DeGeorge, the mayor’s spokesman, told Investigative Post Brown will take a third swing at the ball soon.

“Chris is highly considered in the parking industry,” DeGeorge wrote in an email, “and the Mayor does have another candidate for the position.”